It is perhaps quite fitting that it is Arsenal, a team who themselves have just ‘turned the corner’ after a terrible start to the season by their standards, are the team to test Marseille’s mini-revival of their own.
Having chalked up just one league win all season, Marseille have now won two in a row in the league, with those back-to-back victores sandwiching a win in the French Cup. However, those league wins were against two of the promoted sides this season, while their cup triumph was against Ligue 2 outfit Lens.
Even then, Dijon had threatened to come back, coming from 2-0 down to 2-2 in the second half. Alou Diarra grabbed a late winner for Marseille though, showing signs that their revival may be getting started.
Arsenal, however, will be a completely different challenge, regardless of any changes they make in light of a busy November schedule. In fact, only Manchester United have won at the Emirates Stadium in the Champions League since it’s opening in 2006. Marseille will certainly have their work cut out.
They managed to frustrate the Gunners for 90 minutes in the reverse fixture in France, only for Aaron Ramsey to grab a late clincher for the English side in added time. Arsenal’s struggles in attack may well have been due to the side still being relatively new to each other. Their main problems were penetrating the Marseille defence and Robin van Persie being isolated.
However, Marseille didn’t offer much at all going forward, which was surprising given the talents of the likes of Andre Ayew, Loic Remy and Mathieu Valbuena – all linked with Arsene Wenger’s side at some point interestingly.
A recent change to 4-4-2, among the relative ease of their fixtures as mentioned above, seems to have increased the flow of goals, but it’s been speculated by French journalists that manager Didier Deschamps may revert back to the apparently unsuccessful 4-5-1.
While this may seem a puzzling move given his team’s turn-around of form with the change of formation, it’s vital for a team coming to the Emirates not to allow Arsenal to gain control of the game in midfield, therefore it’s important to match up the numbers across the pitch.
The Gunners will most likely stick with this season’s 4-3-3 formation, although rotation may see Andrey Arshavin deployed centrally, which will likely mean two holding midfielders in front of the defence, two wide midfielders and a lone striker in front of Arshavin, as seen against Bolton in the Carling Cup.
With Marouane Chamakh out injured according to Arsene Wenger, and the Frenchman unlikely to risk his prized asset Robin van Persie, we should see Park Ju-Young start up front again for Arsenal. After a confidence-boosting winner against Bolton, Wenger is insistent we’ll start seeing the best of his South Korean import from Monaco.
You get the sense that Arsene Wenger will mix a few of those fringe players in with the first choice eleven – he won’t want to disrupt the Gunners’ momentum too much and is aware of the importance of the game
Elsewhere Yossi Benayoun, Ryo Miyaichi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are three of a few additions to the squad that faced Chelsea, and despite the magnitude of the game it should be a chance for a few of the fringe players to impress and stake their claims for a place in the starting line-up.
You get the sense that Arsene Wenger will mix a few of those fringe players in with the first choice eleven – he won’t want to disrupt the Gunners’ momentum too much and is aware of the importance of the game, but he’ll be aware of the possibility of fatigue and will want to give chances to restless players who have been on the bench of late.
Despite the large possibility of Arsenal making a few changes, I’d imagine that in front of their home crowd they should have too much for the French side. Marseille’s mini revival has, with the greatest respect possible to AC Ajaccio, RC Lens and Dijon, not yet been tested by a good team.
Arsenal should be able to make it nine wins in ten games, as they continue to prove their critics wrong – they’ll also hope to prove they’re not as reliant on Robin van Persie as some parts of the media would have you believe. It may well be a tough test for Arsenal, but a very winnable match.
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